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Introduction: The Big Four Take a Beating

A recent survey conducted by the consumer group Which? has revealed some “shocking” facts about mid-contract price hikes by the UK’s four largest network providers. According to the survey, mobile phone users could save money and benefit from better service by opting for smaller firms like Smarty, Giffgaff, and Tesco Mobile. The survey found that these smaller firms are outperforming the “big four” network giants – O2, EE, Vodafone, and Three – in terms of customer satisfaction.

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The Survey Findings: Winners and Losers

The survey, which polled 3,400 mobile customers, found that Three had the lowest customer score among the “big four”, with a meager score of 66%. Customers faced several problems with the network, such as poor phone signals, frequent network dropouts, and issues resolving queries. Vodafone scored 68% in customer satisfaction, receiving good ratings for network reliability and download speeds but rated poorly for customer service and incentives. Meanwhile, O2 and EE scored a mediocre 69% across the board. Shockingly, O2 implemented the highest mid-contract price increases at 17.3% on some customers’ bills.
On the other hand, Tesco Mobile was rated the highest with a customer score of 80%, while Giffgaff and Smarty were rated highly for value for money, with scores of 75%.

The Impact of Price Hikes on Customers

Millions of mobile users in the UK are stuck in a Catch-22 where they must either accept expensive fee hikes or pay exorbitant fees to leave their contracts. According to Which?, the UK’s largest providers were among those who implemented price hikes of up to 17% in the middle of people’s contracts earlier this year. Ofcom is reviewing inflation-linked price rises, with initial findings set to be published later this year.

What Providers Are Doing to Address the Issue

In response to the cost-of-living crisis, Which? has started endorsing mobile phone providers that offer outstanding value for consumers seeking cost-effective data plans. Smarty, Giffgaff, and iD Mobile met the criteria for offering cheap sim-only deals. However, Tesco Mobile was stripped of its recommended provider endorsement despite being the highest scoring network because it began “baking above-inflation price increases into new customer contracts despite previously championing fixed prices,” according to Which?. Price hikes will begin from April next year.

Provider Comments

A spokesperson for Three expressed disappointment with the survey findings, stating that they don’t reflect the company’s recent improvements in network and systems, as well as customer service processes. The firm added that Smarty is a sub-brand of Three since it utilizes its mobile network.

The Full Ranked List

The full ranked list according to the survey is as follows:

  • Tesco Mobile
  • Lebara
  • Voxi
  • Plusnet Mobile
  • Giffgaff (tied 5th)
  • Smarty (tied 5th)
  • Utility Warehouse
  • iD Mobile
  • Sky Mobile
  • EE (tied 10th)
  • O2 (tied 10th)
  • Vodafone
  • BT Mobile (tied 13th)
  • Talkmobile (tied 13th)
  • Virgin Mobile (tied 13th)
  • Three (17th)
  • Asda Mobile (tied 17th)
  • Lycamobile (tied 17th)

The survey by Which?

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Hi I'm Oliver Smith, I would say that I take great pride in my work as a journalist and strive to produce high-quality, impactful stories that make a difference. With more than eight years of experience under my belt, I am passionate about uncovering the truth and shining a light on issues that matter.


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